Friday, April 11, 2008

Article by Dr Ian Adamson

On 10th March 1999, Marjorie Mowlam, one of Her Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State, made Order 1999 Number 8591 North/South Co-Operation (Implementation Bodies).

The functions of the language body in relation to Ullans and Ulster-Scots cultural issues would be exercised by an Ulster-Scots Agency of the body. “Ullans” was to be understood as the variety of the Scots language traditionally found in parts of Northern Ireland and Donegal. “Ulster-Scots cultural issues” related to the cultural traditions of the part of the population of Northern Ireland and the border counties which was of Scottish ancestry and the influence of their cultural traditions on others, both within the island of Ireland and the rest of the world. This was a very skilfully crafted document which allowed a distinction between the language, which is spoken by people of varying ancestries and nationalities, and the cultural traditions, which are an amalgam of Ulster and Scottish traditions, both Highland and Lowland.

One of my favourite books is “A Treasury of Irish Folklore” edited by Padraic Colum, which I bought in New York in the early 70’s, where one reads: “In north-east Ulster where the country people speak – or, until recently, spoke – the Lallans or Lowland Scots, there is a particular tradition. The examples from that tradition given here are few, not because there is not a great deal to select from, but because much of it blends with the lore of the rest of the country. To come on a couple of striking poems in Lallans is, for this editor, a particularly fortunate circumstance – they do not come in the usual Irish publications. In reading “Winter” and “To A Hedgehog”, the one by a schoolmaster and the other by a weaver, one might be left with the impression that they derive from Burns. This would be wrong. There are “phrased in their own idiom”, says John Hewitt, the idiom being “a branch of the great Lallans tree which still flourishes across the Moyle”. “Written in Winter” by James Orr and “To A Hedgehog” by Samuel Thompson were collected by my friend John Hewitt, in the Ulster Quarterly of Poetry “Rann”, Winter 1950. John’s landmark study “The Rhyming Weavers and Other Country Poets of Antrim and Down” appeared in 1974.

I first used the term Ulster Lallans in the chapter on “The Language of Ulster” in my “identity of Ulster”, published under my own imprint Pretani Press in 1982. I followed this up in 1992 by publishing the Folk Poets of Ulster series, including the Country Rhymes of James Orr, Samuel Thompson and Hugh Porter. In line with the Scots Magazine “Lallans”, I suggested the use of “Ullans” as the name of the magazine for the Ulster-Scots Language Society, first published in 1993. The term appeared particularly useful, not only as a contraction of Ulster Lallans but of the words “Uladh” (Gaelic for Ulster) or Ulidia and “Lallans”(Scotch for Lowlands), as well as being an acronym of the Society’s aims in its support for the Ulster-Scots language, literature and native speech. I also suggested the name for a proposed Ullans or Ulster-Scots Academy which I founded in June 1992 following a meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, between Professor R J Gregg and myself. This was to be based on the Friesian Academy of Sciences in the Netherlands, with its three Departments of Linguistics and Literature, History and Culture, and Social Sciences, which I had visited in 1978 with a group of community activists from Northern Ireland.

The Academy would fulfil a need for regulation and standardisation of the language for modern usage. But these standards must be initiated on behalf of the whole Ulster-Scots community, protestant and catholic, nationalist and unionist, as well as being academically sound. What we don’t need, however, is the development of an artificial dialect which excludes and alienates traditional speakers.

The formation of the Ulster-Scots Agency has been a great step forward for the development of Ullans both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. But it has no jurisdiction in the south-west Scottish area of Northern Great Britain (Galloway and Carrick), the British Kingdom of Rheged, where Ullans is also spoken and where it is known as “Galloway Irish”. The Ullans Academy will therefore be based in Belfast which is at the epicentre of Ullans speech in all three jurisdictions. It should also be used to explore the relationships with Ulster Gaelic or Ulidian which was also formally spoken in all three areas, first brought to south-west “Scotland” by the Kreenies or Cruthin of Dalaradia in Antrim. This will be facilitated by the developing relationship of the Ullans Academy with An Culturlann in the Gaeltacht Quarter of West Belfast, while the Heirschipe Village concept initiated by the Ullans Academy, with its focus on cultural tourism, should also be developed under the remit of the Ulster-Scots Agency. The preservation of Belfast English and other forms of Ulster-English will also be a priority. Only when we have complete access to all aspects of our history and culture, long prevented by the academic establishment, will the conditions be created which will allow us at last to cross the religious and political divide.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

April meeting

ON Tuesday 8th April the Ulster Society had its monthly meeting in the Peter Froggatt Centre, Room 212.

The guest speaker was Dr Ian Adamson who spoke about the origins of Britain and British identity.